Dr George Akuffo Dampare — IGP
Dr George Akuffo Dampare — IGP
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Ahafo Region major flashpoint in elections - Police strategise to deal with disturbances

The Ahafo Region, with just six constituencies, has emerged as a major flashpoint in local politics, with the police mapping out a strategy that will zero in on the region in the lead-up to the December polls. 

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While the strategy seeks to contain the issue at the national level, security insiders have hinted the Daily Graphic that the scale of the problem in the region does not reflect its size and population.

With a population of just 564,668, it is the least populated region in the country. But even before it was carved out of the then Brong Ahafo Region, the six constituencies of Asunafo North, Asunafo South, Tano North, Tano South, Asutifi North and Asutifi South were notorious spots for political violence across the spectra of voter registration, voter register exhibition, voting and counting of votes; declaration of results and other high-octane activities.

Only last month, the police granted bail to the Member of Parliament for Asutifi South, Collins Dauda, over violent clashes during the limited voter registration exercise. With the claims and counter-claims reinforcing the violence tag acquired by the area, it appeared to provide a just cause for the intended clampdown by the police on political violence, with a big focus on the area.

But more than just a situation with the Ahafo Region, political hot spots have become a threat to national security. Eight people, including minors, were killed when security forces fired at them in nearby Techiman South in the Bono East Region during the 2020 general election.

Police

According to the Ghana Police Service index, flashpoints or hot spots are decided and reviewed based on a number of factors such as incidents recorded in previous elections, voter registration exercises, crime risks and volatility.

Police sources told the Daily Graphic that the security agencies were aware of the situation in the Ahafo Region and neighbouring areas, and would work to contain the situation. The sources said the security agencies were mapping out strategies to declare every polling station a hot spot, and design an operational agenda to deal with all breaches.

In the 2020 elections, the police identified 6,178 hot spots in its 17 operational regions, with the Ashanti Region leading the pack with 975 hot  spots; Central Region with 906; Eastern with 891;  Accra with 500; Northern with 393; Upper East with 345; Western with 323; Western North with 292; Upper West with 292 and Volta with 275.

The rest were Oti Region with 261; Tema with 189; Bono with 179; Savannah with 129; Bono East with 118; North East with 60 and Ahafo Region with 50. The sources said the increase in the number of police administrative regions to 25 would not only bring policing closer to the people but also help in operations to deal with any flashpoint.

At a meeting with the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission on March 18, this year, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Dr George Akuffo Dampare, said the Police Administration had established an election security secretariat in line with its commitment to enhance election security management.

"We view election as a process rather than an event, so managing election security must also be approached from that point. We do not want to wait until a few months to the elections before we begin to think about election security management," he said.

He said the police had put in place a grand plan to manage security at all points of the electoral process. "What we need from the EC is the election programme to revise our election security management,” he stated.

CDD-Ghana

Speaking to the issue, the Teams Lead for Elections for the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Coalition for Domestic Elections Observers (CODEO), Gilfred Asiamah, said through its long-term observation and monitoring, as well as pre-election surveys, CDD-Ghana had identified some of the hot spots and shared them with the appropriate agencies.

He said the Ahafo Region was known for some of the electoral breaches all the time. That, he explained, was because of the inability of the security agencies to prosecute the perpetrators.

As a result, Mr Asiamah said the perpetrators kept rehearsing, waiting to get sponsors or patrons to indulge in another round of electoral violence. He said if the consequences in terms of punishment far outweighed the benefits, particularly cash incentive, both the sponsors and perpetrators would stop.

Mr Asiamah said he was expecting the police to decisively deal with the perpetrators.

Conflict spots

He explained that hots pots were recurring conflict spots in elections. “They are known places that consistently experience violent incidents and chaotic atmosphere in different phases of elections, including voters registration, voters’ register exhibition, election campaigns, voting and counting and immediate post-election events,” he said.

Mr Asiamah said CDD-Ghana used hot spots identified by the Ghana Police Service and the EC, stressing that “CDD-Ghana monitors the political environment and tracks acts of political violence in the phases of elections.

The centre shares information with the security agencies and election management body to help them in making decisions on election security”.

Weakness

Mr Asiamah said the persistent occurrence of electoral violence in particular places reflected weaknesses in law enforcement and the inability of the system to take on perpetrators and their sponsors.

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“It also reflects the low level of trust of the perpetrators in existing state security arrangements. In effect, cyclical violence at particular places give confidence to perpetrators and their financiers to continue to act; it's rewarding to politicians who sponsor violent actions without any fear of consequences,” he stated.

He explained that when the state refused to punish people who committed violence, it often led to counter mobilisation against the perpetrators, so people took matters into their own hands to seek justice.

“In these areas that the state does not appear to be taking on people who commit violence, the victims are emboldened to organise themselves to pay back in kind,” he stressed.

“When people begin to mobilise or get mobilised to commit violent acts, it gives birth to vigilantism. Other people take advantage of the situation to mobilise to counter violent acts,” he said.

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